Old Dixie Highway

The Dixie Highway, when conceived was the equivalent of our interstate

system today. In fact I-75 could be though of as the modern replacement for

its route. When finished it stretched from Miami to Ontario, a distance of

5,700 miles with connectors to it all along the way. An enterprising Yankee,

Carl Edward Fisher, who was a backer of the Lincoln Highway and

Indianapolis Speedway, had thoughts of the system in 1914. In April 1915

the Dixie Highway Association was formed and by May the plans were laid

out to have two mainlines. By June it was underway. By 1916 Michigan had

joined the Dixie Highway Association and started extending the east line

into Canada. All of this was done in two years, or about the time it takes our

modern bureaucrats to plan a coffee break.

In Florida it started at Florida City just south of Miami and worked its way

up through Polk, Taylor and Leon Counties. In Leon County it was what we

now know as Thomasville Road or US 319. While working for Horseshoe

Plantation I remember seeing photos of the then new “Dixie Highway” in

the “Big House” albums. Ironically the “Dixie Highway” runs through

numerous “Yankee Plantations” in both Florida and Georgia. The highway

system likely used existing roads that were then improved for automobile

traffic. The Thomasville /Tallahassee road dates back before the war. I

knew the location of two hand dug wells beside the old road that provided

water for the stagecoach line. The recent improvements to US 319N may

have brought about the old wells demise. In 1927 a monument to General

Robert E. Lee was placed beside the Dixie Highway in North Leon County.

At the dedication Ohio returned Florida’s Confederate flags that they had

captured during the war. Over the years the monument was removed and

thought lost. Thanks to Commander Bob Hurst and the ladies of the UDC it

was located, reinstalled and rededicate. Today it stands near the state line

beside the “Dixie Highway.” (US 319)

As with the old stage coach wells, once important things are changed,

discarded and too soon forgotten; so it is with the name “Dixie Highway.” A

name that was known by millions in now known to just a few. The name

took its biggest hit when the government went to a highway numbering

system. Abandonment and realignment around towns contributed also.

Over the years the red and white signs with the big DH were replaced by US

highway signs. If you traveled from Miami to Chicago today, retracing the

“Dixie Highway” route, you would follow eighteen US highway numbers.

Small sections of the old road can still be found in some parts of Florida.

Would it have been great if someone had made a TV series and written a

song about “Dixie Highway” instead of “Route 66?”

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